When my phone buzzed the morning of October 1st, 2014, I had an idea it was news of my father. The number was his, and this told me it wasn’t him since he had stopped speaking days before. When I listened to the voicemail, my suspicions were confirmed. My sister, choking back tears, told the empty space after the beep that my father was dead. I heard her voice, the strength behind it, trying to keep her tone measured and clear. She was either being watched or had been because she held back, and she needn’t have done so with me. After I hung up, my head felt hot. I had several more hours of teaching ahead of me and no inclination to do anything but curl up in a ball and weep.
I stripped bare when I got home, not wanting anything against my skin, which felt too tight against my aching bones. I locked the door, drew a bath, and inhaled the steam deep into my lungs. Then I added a handful of Epsom salts and essential oils of sage and rose. Heart healing. It was warm when I slipped beneath the water, holding my breath, blocking out everything. Under the water, I heard nothing but the thump-thump of my own heartbeat.
23 of my 46 chromosomes had come from the man whose spirit had fled his earthly suit. He had given me life, had helped create the heart that was now pounding a dirge inside my chest. I came up for air, gasping as if my lungs were trying to hold air for a dead man 3,000 miles away. Later, I would lie in bed, my cat purring on my chest. I focused on the low rumble beneath my fingers as I stroked her fur. Petting, purring, a feline kindness for my broken heart.